As a leader, for some it can actually be relatively simply to define a vision. The process of creating, shaping and moulding a vision statement is something every leader has to go through.
But vision needs persistence.
And it is only with persistent vision that you will see a business succeed, a charity succeed, an idea or concept become a reality.
It is not just about creating a great vision, it’s having the persistence to see it through to completion.
I often say, starting something is easy but sticking with it is a challenge.
One of the key characteristics of a great leader and visionary is to be able to start and finish well - that long obedience in the same direction.
Three principles for keeping going:
1. Keep connected to your why.
Throughout the life of a business, a charity, a ministry or a movement, as a leader you have to constantly come back to why was this idea formed? Why was this ministry started? What was the inspiration to start this business?
This is not just physically, but emotionally and maybe even spiritually what happened to spark this idea into action?
Write it down.
Remind yourself regularly.
One of the major reasons people give up is that they ask this question of themselves, “Why am I doing this?”. You might get to a point with your teams where they are so tired, they are so drained of energy and they are at a point where they (and maybe even you) just want to quit.
How you maintain your vision and energise your people is by constantly communicating the why.
2. Keep creative in your communication of your why
You may have a strong connection with your why, but if you keep communicating the same why in the same way, people will get bored of the why.
As a leader, you need to remind people of the why but you also need to continually innovate the way in which you communicate the why.
If you dress the same way every day, you get bored of what you are wearing. If you eat the same dinner every day, you get bored of what you are eating.
No matter how good the vision is, you and those around you will simply get bored of what is communicated unless you think of new ways in which to convey the message.
Great leaders can evolve the communication of a vision, without losing the content of the vision.
Did you know that every 5-7 years, you shed all of your skin.
I think it’s the same for organisations, that every 5-7 years you need a different expression of who you are, you need to reevaluate who you are, what’s your why, how are you communicating your why?
Some of you are maybe asking, why are we not engaging the next generation? My challenge to you, is have you tried to re-express yourself? Have you challenged yourself on changing the message? Evolving the communication? Just because it worked 40 years ago, doesn’t mean it will work now.
3. Allow others to communicate the why
You need to grow a team of why-ers.
If you want to have longevity in your vision, you need to keep connected to your why, you need to keep creative in your why, but you also need to have a team of why-ers.
People that, when you are not there, can cast the same vision with the same passion.
You need to identify innovative ways of empowering the next tier of leadership and leaders beyond that who can constantly communicate the why of your vision.
It should not rely on you. Don’t build an organisation around you.
The organisation needs to outgrow you.
The profile of Virgin is intrinsically linked with Richard Branson. When Branson eventually retires, it will be fascinating to see how that might impact Virgin as an organisation because it’s been so heavily based upon one man.
Apple have gone through something similar after the sad passing of Steve Jobs.
I’m sure Virgin will survive but I know of many other organisations, who’s why has been limited to the leader and have therefore struggled when that leader has moved on.
Long term organisations needs why-ers beyond the leader, who can communicate and motivate others through vision and feel the sense of connection to the why just as strongly as the leader.